[air-uh-naw-tiks, -not-iks]
aeronautics: see aerodynamics; airplane; aviation.
in full National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Independent U.S. government agency established in 1958 for research and development of vehicles and activities for aeronautics and space exploration. Its goals include improving human understanding of the universe, the solar system, and Earth and establishing a permanent human presence in space. NASA, previously the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), was created largely in response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in 1957. Its organization was well under way in 1961, when Pres. John F. Kennedy proposed that the U.S. put a man on the Moon by the end of the 1960s (see Apollo). Later unmanned programs (e.g., Viking, Mariner, Voyager, Galileo) explored other planets and interplanetary space, and orbiting observatories (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope) have studied the cosmos. NASA also developed and launched various satellites with Earth applications, such as Landsat and communications and weather satellites. It planned and developed the space shuttle and led the development and construction of the International Space Station.

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Aeronautics (from Greek aero which means air or sky and nautis which means sailor, i.e. sailor of the air or sky) is the science involved with the study, design, and manufacture of flight-capable machines, or the techniques of operating aircraft. While the term—literally meaning "sailing the air"—originally referred solely to the science of operating the aircraft, it has since been expanded to include technology, business and other aspects related to aircraft. One of the significant parts in aeronautics is a branch of physical science called aerodynamics, which deals with the motion of air and the way that it interacts with objects in motion, such as an aircraft. Aviation is a term sometimes used interchangeably with aeronautics, although "aeronautics" includes lighter-than-air craft such as airships, while "aviation" does not.

Early aeronautics

Before scientific investigation of aeronautics started, people started thinking of ways to fly. In a Greek legend, Icarus and his father Daedalus built wings of feathers and wax and flew out of a prison. Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, and he fell in the sea and drowned. When people started to scientifically study how to fly, people began to understand the basics of air and aerodynamics. One of the earliest scientists to study aeronautics was Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo studied the flight of birds in developing engineering schematics for some of the earliest flying machines in the late fifteenth century AD. His schematics, however, such as the ornithopter ultimately failed as practical aircraft. The flapping machines that he designed were either too small to generate sufficient lift, or too heavy for a human to operate. Although the ornithopter continues to be of interest to hobbyists, it was replaced by the glider in the 19th century.


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